This past weekend I accepted an invitation to attend an ICT CPD, commissioned by BECTA and hosted by Marilyn Leask at Brunel University (Prof of Education). Described as a
‘workshop reviewing what ICT tools teachers find effective now, and what they would like to help them in their work for the future.’
it was a great opportunity for me personally but also enabled me to connect with a number of professional colleagues I have collaborated with through my PLN for a few years, but never met. Ian Usher, Mile Berry and Drew Buddie were made 3D and I would like to think that our future collaborations were only encouraged (although I can not speak for them). I am not going to recite the events of the workshop but touch on one of two personal reflections and workshop themes.
Opportunities to discuss ICT issues with the full compliment of educational provision, primary, secondary, further and higher education, NQT, classroom teachers, AST, SLT, strategiest and trainers, provids a invaluable scope for conversation and broadens your appreciation for your colleagues.
ICT ‘excellence’ is too broad a term. Excellence with areas of ICT are needed, for example ICT curriculum, ICTAC, ICT strategic planning, ICT for administration, ICT for parental engagement, ICT for assessment, ICT for use in teaching, ICT for preparing educational experiences, ICT for CPD, ICT practitioners with excellence in using ICT tools (audio, video, ‘new teachnologies,’ blogs/wikis, social bookmarking). Group them as you will, but ICT is too broad a term.
IT staff were the only group omitted from the workshop, yet all contributors had experience on technology failing before or during teaching or practice. Failing ICT is the one sure factor decelerate ICT progress and staff confidence.
As I was not present for the final session, I contribtued by following Miles and Drews Tweets. It was a new experience, it did not compensate for being present but I did get to spend the afternoon with my family. Drews final tweet and theme – @digitalmaverick oops I meant ‘Educate don’t Prevent’ #tfft.
I do have one regret, (even though I tried to address it that evening)….. when asked about my best/worst CPD – I noted I had only been teaching ICT for a year and had not attended any formal ICT CPD. My error was in my perception of the question. CPD is so much more than the organised sessions within or after school. More than the twlight sessions and formal days ‘on a course.’ Its more than accessing the schools staff vle or ‘staffroom, more than the NCSL courses (although I will recommend the OFAT course) and large scale conferences. It is the informal conversations over coffee, the ‘can I have a quiet word in your ear,’ or the - ‘a word to the wise.’
CPD can be far more subtle, for example when you see a colleague deliver the same lesson in a different way to you, when a students helps you solve a problem. When an NQT students asks – ‘so why do we do it that way?’ CPD can be when you find yourself out of your depth, (go back over this blog for plenty of examples). It could be what you learn about a department whilst taking a cover lesson or what you witness when visiting another school – and these observations may never have even appeared on the proscribed agenda!
Yet there is something specifically powerful about ICT CPD. Despite my brief flurtation with the subject I am accutely aware of ICTs power to amplifiy the possibilities. I will recommend 3, each contributing to my Personal Learning Network / CPD most days.
My RSS Reader – I have not looked for news for the past 12 moths now. I use Google Reader. Its FREE – portable and invaluable. I only read the news I want to read and source an amazing amount of pertinent information and tools every week.
Twitter / SN – I quick, to the point. Within minutes I can call on the support of 200 colleagues, from a dozen or so countries. Colleagues with a broad range of experiences, from the full range of education sectors, from around the world, (which makes the conversation rich). What is more, I have successfully called upon their networks for support as well. Now I am not saying you should join Twitter, what I am saying is that Twitter has educational potential for collaboration.
My students – my students teach me something new every lesson and offer me the most real and honest feedback. Dont forget to ask them for their feedback.
There are others CPD tools that support me in my career, my blog for example helps me reflect and compose my thoughts. I feel that as the blog is published, I am accountable to myself. Social networks and forums add connectiveness, but their not my first choice, nor is IM. Email is a powerful tool and useful in many situations but there is often a long delay. Conferencing was a much referenced tool during the Futures weekend – Skype, dimdim, flashmeeting, all very powerful. However, despite the usefulness of these tools, they did not make it into my top 3.
To conclude, I categorical state (as I heard Drew Buddie and others adhere to) that my personal network delivers more value, with more diversity, more regularly, than any formal CPD. Sorry BECTA, but the secret is – there are no secrets. Its a share-and-share-alike licence.
Now I have not planned this post, its more of a rant. If asked again would I take up the opportunity to attend. Most definitely. Now this is the seedling idea. This event cost less than a days ‘purchased’ CPD training and delivered a 2 day event, breakfast, lunch and dinner and connect 30 enthused educators. For sure – there were one or two points that raised an eyebrow but it was a very positive event for many. So, to conclude, personal connections enrich any CPD, my thanks to Mark Hellen, Andrew Oraeki, Andree Jordon in particular, Greg Anderson and the usual suspects.